I recently had to reconnect to a wireless network that I have not connected to in a long time. Fortunately, though I had long forgotten the password, the computer still remembered it. Not wanting to find myself disconnected without knowing the password, I sought to look it up in the system.

A quick Google search indicated that Ubuntu stores wireless passwords at /etc/NetworkManager/system-connections. It quickly became clear that this was not where my Fedora system stores WiFi passwords: there are no files in the directory. This is surprising, since NetworkManager is a RedHat product.

Further investigation uncovered that Fedora stores WiFi passwords in the /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ directory. I am sure that there are is a good reason for this, but that's beside the point. Implementing the same basic functionality–storing WiFi passwords–differently in two Linux distros is just unnecessary complexity.

The difference, however, is not large enough to avoid a major security issue: both distros store WiFi passwords in plain text files in under the /etc directory. Archlinux, which uses the netctl tool by default, is somewhat more secure through the use of encryption, but still far from perfect.

And therein lies the rub: Linux distros, for whatever reason, insist on different, not better, ways of doing things. Until these unnecessary differences are eliminated, the Linux community will find it difficult to make progress on important issues.